Monday, November 30, 2009

Found Luggage!

Hello all,
As you know from the last post, my luggage did not arrive in Atlanta from Cancun and there was sadness all around. I should have updated our blog with the news but getting reacquainted with American food has been a challenge. ( that a sign?). I have good news: when we arrived in Valdosta from Atlanta on the 24th, my bag appeared on the carousel! The team was very happy as was I. Thanks to all that expressed their concern.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From "The Lost Foreigner" to "Lost luggage"

Poor Jeff... Delta has lost his luggage. When we got to ATL this afternoon, got processed in and went to retrieve our luggage to clear customs, it was not there! Unfortunately, they haven't found it before now (we're about to board), but we are hoping and praying that it will be there when we get to Valdosta. All his souvenirs and clothes are there... he bought some really beautiful pieces of wood carvings in El Remate yesterday afternoon, and I'm just sick that he won't have it when he gets home.

We've had a bit of a tough time trying to get through all the security checkpoints and clearing customs twice each way. They are really interested in the amount of equipment we are carrying, and Jeff actually had to pay a computer tax in Cancun, because he was carrying two laptops. My portable printer has been another source of interest as well.

Right now, we are sitting in ATL waiting on the last leg of our flight to VLD. Cameron got home (he left us earlier in ATL, since he lives here and will be home for Thanksgiving.) It's been a long day... a long week... but very rewarding, to say the least.

Peten was absolutely incredible yesterday. It truly was a chance of a lifetime to tour some of the world's most intriguing ruins at Tikal Park. Here's a photo, just to give you a taste of what it was like:

We'll be continuing our work, for sure. There's lots to be done, reports to be written, and things to be shared with all. This is a great week, and we all are excited to see our family and friends. More later, I am sure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Summing up?

As everyone has already said, this trip has been incredible. With beautiful views of the mountains surrounding Lago Peten Itza and the Hotel Gringo Perdido, we have all been blessed to take part in this wonderful excursion. We all tremendously enjoyed the zip line tour yesterday afternoon, and cannot wait to see Tikal tomorrow. While we have not accomplished everything that we had hoped due to some technology issues, we still have hopefully set the stage for VSU SIFE and the the Valdosta State University SBDC to have a sustainable international project with very tangible and meaningful results. The work of Anne and Enrique at Project Ix-Canaan is nothing short of remarkable... they are incredible people with wonderful stories and a heart for service to the people of northern Guatemala.

There remains much to be accomplished as we wind down this trip, but we will always remember the great people we have met and the camaraderie we have enjoyed. Each and every team member has discovered (and shared) hidden talents during this time.

This will be all for now, as our attendees for this afternoon's training sessions are beginning to arrive.

Winding Down to the End...

Hey everyone! Today will be our last day of work...This afternoon we will be teaching two seminars to the local people. I will teach them about how to build a website for FREE and Scott will be teaching them about social media! I think that both of these topics will be very valuable to the growth of El Remate and all of the businesses within this small, but beautiful place. As we went door to door yesterday to invite everyone, the individuals seemed very interested and excited to have some outside help from VSU SIFE and SBDC. We hope to have a great turn out today!

Tomorrow is MONDAY, FUN DAY!! Yay!! We will wake very early and load the bus at 5:15AM to head to Tikal. Hotel Gringo Perdido will pack us a lunch to take and we will enjoy exploring Tikal National park until around 2PM. After that we plan to take one last stroll through the village to do some shopping and have one last experience with these great people! After that we will have our normal night routine...sunset, dinner, star gazing and BED! Tuesday morning we fly out of Flores at 8:30 and return back to Valdosta at 9:43!!

We have all been very blessed to have been given this great opportunity! I know that we will all be leaving here with many great stories and aspirations of ways to continue helping the great people of El Remate. This will be our last blog until we reach the Atlanta airport Tuesday afternoon. Thank you to everyone for all of their support, we look forward to more amazing updates for you once we arrive in the states!

My Final Guatemalan Post

After a hard mornings work on the website and on Nikki and Scott’s presentations, Anne and Enrique invited us over for lunch. Lunch was amazing. We had a rice dish with chicken and chilies amongst other things. I am going to have to get the recipe. For dessert, Anne served us the “Ultimate Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.” The outside tasted like a warm peanut butter cookie with big peanut chunks and inside there were two different kinds of jellies: watermelon and strawberry jelly. They were fantastic. After lunch, it was time to have some fun. Anne took us to a canopy tour about twenty minutes away and the ride was not easy because the road to the tour had thousands of potholes, so we had to swerve left and right to avoid them.

Once we got there, it was time to strap up. Because of my size, it took awhile to get me ready, and they needed about four extra carabineers to make sure everything was secure on me. Once everyone was strapped up, we walked up the swinging bridge and it was time for our adventure. Elmer and Earl were our guides and were definitely pros at the zip-line. This was definitely one of the highlight moments of the trip. Everyone had a great time and no one was afraid of heights. There were about 12 to 15 different zip-lines that were part of the course, and the majority was around 50 ft. high, but some were 75 ft, and a couple was a 100 ft. high in the canopy. Some of the lines our guides told us not use the break and not hold on. They called it “monkeying.” That was a lot of fun except for I hit some leaves and branches, and I almost hit my head on a tree and other things because of my size and length. Sometimes we would not make it all the way to the end of the zip-line so we would have to pull ourselves to the end. It was quite the workout, plus being at the top of the canopy was very smoldering and we were all sweating profusely. Nevertheless, we had a great time and I can’t wait to go zip-lining again soon. Our next escapade was to Ix – Lu. It is an old Mayan site that Anne showed us around, and we climbed to the top of an old pyramid that the Earth has reclaimed and now just looks like a big hill. Ms. Anne also found us some ancient pieces of Mayan clay pottery.

After looking at the Mayan ruins, we raced back to Gringo Perdido to catch a glimpse of the superb sunset. To get a better view I put my camera in a zip-lock bag and swam out to the floating pontoon boat right off the shoreline of Lake Petén. By the time I reached the boat I was out of breath because I could only swim with one hand to keep my camera dry and above water. Just in the nick of time, we were able to capture some perfect pictures of the sunset as it slowly sank into the horizon. Following our swim was dinner. It was delicious as usual. We started with a chicken broth and potato soup and a cabbage, carrot, and raisin coleslaw. The main course was two burritos with vegetables inside. I have grown very fond of the habenero hot sauce. I have been using it more liberally each meal we have. I guess it is somewhat of an acquired taste. For dessert, we had a bowl of succulent rice milk custard that tasted like Coldstone Sweet Cream Ice Cream.

The only thing left to do was some stargazing and talk with each other, and then it was lights out to get ready for Sunday.

Sunday started early with a 7:30 AM breakfast. We had hot bananas, granola cereal with milk, and a pair of eggs over easy with salsa and potatoes. The only thing necessary to add was some spicy habenero sauce. To work off our breakfast we decided to tour the Biotopo Cerro Cahui. It was kind of expensive at 40 Quetzals, but we went anyway. It was a very tough 2.5 miles hike with lots of hills. We were hot, sweaty, and tired, but all of us needed the exercise. After the hike, we took a dip in the pool, and then it was time to get ready for the presentations this afternoon. We are hoping to have a good turnout, and we believe it will be very beneficial to the locals.

As we were setting up the room for the presentation we forgot to bring the projector, so Anne and I had to run back by Gringo Perdido to pick it up. It was not a big deal because we came up to Project Ix-Canaan early enough in case something like that did happen.

Today will be our last day to use computers for e-mail and to work on the website. Tomorrow will be a fun day. We are going to see the world-famous Mayan Ruins of Tikal. It will be an early morning but the excitement should empower us to get out of the bed and on the road. That will be a day trip and we will be exhausted when we get back. Tuesday, we will have to say our goodbyes to this Guatemalan Paradise. We catch and early flight… knock on wood… we hope everything goes the way it is supposed to, and we will be able to see our loved ones Tuesday night.

Thanks to all who kept up with our blog and posted comments. We are in a pickle because we would love to stay longer to enjoy and explore all that Central America has to offer, but then also we all miss our families and can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with them. This truly was a life changing experience, and all four of us will take so much away from we have learned and the new memories we have with each other in Guatemala. We were given the opportunity to work with the locals from Guatemala, and share our expertise on business and marketing. The ability to share our knowledge and expertise is why have all worked so hard to achieve a higher education. There is no greater gift we can give the locals here then to share with them our knowledge, and hopefully they can use and apply what we have taught them to change not only their lives but also the surrounding communities of Lake Petén for the better.

Saturday's activities

Yesterday our hostess, Ms Anne, treated us to lunch in her home, or rather out on her beautiful patio across from Project Ix Canaan. Ix Canaan is where we have Internet access. After our work was finished we were taken to a canopy tour location. The owner is a friend of our hostess and wanted to meet us. We were thrilled to learn when we got there that we were taking the tour.

It was an awesome experience as you can see by the photos

The group is suited up and ready to go!!
Nikki swinging on the zipline!

Cameron does the "monkey", as our guides, Earl and Elmer, called it.

It was very exhilarating and we all had a great time.

After the canopy tour, we went to a Mayan site called Ixlu. After that it was back to Hotel Gringo Perdido and a swim in Lago Peten Itza with the sunset. Then dinner, stars and bed.

Tomorrow we go to Tikal National Park. The bus leaves at 5:15 am so it will be early to bed for us tonight. This is our last opportunity to post until we reach the US. We hope all of you are enjoying our posts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another Day

Another day has passed and we have accomplished much. Nikki and Cameron contacted the majority of the hotels and restaurants in and around El Remate to pass out flyers about the seminars that Nikkin and Scott are giving on Sunday afternoon. At first we thought Sunday would be the incorrect day but culturally it seems it is the best day for sessions such as these.

Scott rebuilt Hotel Gringo Perdido's website, at least the skeleton, yesterday. That was a major accomplishment that we were looking forward to beginning. Today, Cameron and I will try to flesh out the rest of it as time permits.

We had a great lunch in the village of El Remate with an excellent view of the "cocrodillo". This land formation is where Hotel Gringo Perdido is located.

After lunch we walked through part of the village to deliver more seminar flyers. El Remate is very interesting. The people are very friendly and the children are so cute. They love to have their picture taken as you can see.

Our day ended with us traveling back to Hotel Gringo Perdido around 5 p.m. The sun starts setting about 5:30 and it is definitely dark by 6:30. Along the way we stopped to watch some children playing soccer and having fun as the day ended.

The sunset is truly magnificent and will take your breath away. These two visitors to Hotel Gringo Perdido are sharing the moment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 2

What's up everybody,

Our first day began with a tour of the Ix-Canaan village. Anne showed us all around. She showed us where people of the area work and live. It is a very sad sight to see... the families are so poor they can barely afford to feed their pet dogs, which you can tell are severely malnourished and need medicine. Anne lives in the heart of the village with her friend Enrique. It is a wonderful property with a three story open-air home and gardens and plants all around. Across the street is the Ix-Canaan library where I am writing this blog and where we will be working on the website, teaching classes, etc...

We had lunch at a local restaurant and funny enough their specialty was pizza. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel which takes about 35 - 40 minutes. Our next step was to begin the strategic planning session led by Scott. We were able to get a lot of things accomplished and make some headway.

Dinner was nothing short of spectacular. We began with a delicious homemade tomato soup and salad, followed by a local pasta dish, and for desert we had lemon pie. I was worried about the food before coming here, but it is actually really tasty and a good selling point for the hotel. After a long day everyone was pretty tired and went to bed pretty early.

The next morning breakfast was similar but also very good. Nikki and I passed out flyers to the local hotels and restaurants inviting them to the classes that our group will be teaching on building a website and promoting a business on Sunday. That was very tough. There is nothing quite like door-to-door marketing... Most of the hotels are off the lake and a straight up hike. We are exhausted right now.... the inclines are terribly steep and take forever to get to the top. By the time we reached the top where the hotel is, Anne was even huffing and puffing. I will be looking forward to relaxing and getting some rest tonight. While we were passing out the flyers Jeff and Scott have made some headway with renewing Hotel Gringo Perdido's website. We took a short break for lunch at local hotel and then back to Ix-Canaan to start working some more. For the rest of today we will be working on the website and wrapping up the strategic planning information. Bedtime will come early for all of us again after another tough day of work.

Photos from Thursday and Friday

Nikki leads an early morning (5:15 AM) strategy session on the docks of Gringo Perdido. Note to Penny: She's doing great!

First light from the docks of El Gringo Perdido

Cameron & Nikki head out from Gringo Perdido to begin a long day

Some of the beautiful children that are being taught at Ix-Canaan

The task is at hand..

Yesterday was a wonderful day of orientation and learning. Anne Lossing is doing so many wonderful things through the Project Ix-Canaan (Mayan for "Guardians of the Rain Forest.) There is a medical clinic, a library & computer center, a womens center, and plans for much more to come. This is an excellent opportunity for SIFE to make a HUGE difference to complement all the wonderful work done in Valdosta. V-State SIFE goes beyond expectations... goes beyond borders, and goes beyond belief!

Last evening, I was privileged to host a strategic planning session for Hotel Gringo Perdido. Anne Lossing and Alphonse, the property manager, participated, and we brainstormed many ideas to improve the marketing efforts of the hotel. She gave us "carte-blanche" to make changes to the web site, so we are starting with a clean slate. It turns out that Cameron is proving to be an excellent copy-writer, so I'm excited to see how this unfolds for us. I'm also pleased by Jeff's photographic vision, and know that he has many images of the beautiful flora and fauna that surrounds us. Nikki is also visionary, in that she is constantly seeing many potential opportunities to make a difference in the future.

We've identified many potential tasks that need to be performed. While our primary goal is to work hard, learn, and help, we also want to have fun while we're at it! Anne is wonderfully entertaining us, with plans to do a canopy (zipline) tour, observe a Mayan fire ceremony, and tour Tikal National Park. Just remember that our primary goal is to work hard!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guatemala, Day 1

Hey Everyone,

We have made it here to Guatemala safely. Yesterday it was very tough
traveling... we had to take three airplanes just to get down here and
it took around thirteen hours. I had to get up about 4:00 AM and did
not get much sleep after that. Unfortunately, we had to go through
customs twice.... Once in Cancun.... and again when we arrived at

Once in Flores we were picked up by Humberto and driven to Hotel Gringo
Perdido. The ride took about 40 minutes, but it was really cool seeing
everything between the airport and hotel. The hotel is beautiful and
set in such a peaceful setting. It is located off the beaten path and
you have to travel on a bumpy road to get there but it is definitely
worth it. It is tucked away in such a pristine and well preserved area.
I would definitely recommend anyone to come here. The room is very
interesting. It has three walls and a door with an open wall looking
out to Lake Peten. In my room I have a huge king-sized bed and a little
twin. It kind of looks like a princesses room because of the way the
mosquito nets draped over the bed. It slept really well and I have a
fan so I was not too hot.

After settling in we met with Anne, the hotel manager that we will be
working with. We came out of our room just in time to see a beautiful
sunset. It was truly amazing and the thing is that everyday here at the
hotel you can see a beautiful sunset and sunrise. She gave us a tour of
the grounds and we were very impressed. Also, she showed us around the
new luxurious hotel that they are building next door. It is really
going to be something spectacular.

After our tour, we sat down for our delicious four-course meal. We
started with broccoli soup, followed by a cucumber dish. Our main
course was amazing with chicken, potatoes, carrots, etc... We finished
the night off with a delicious banana bread which might rival my
Nana's. The bananas were picked from around the hotel and were
delicious. To drink we had a delicious, sweet rice drink, which to me,
tasted like a Wendy's vanilla frosty for perspective.

Dinner was spectacular, but afterwards we went down to the dock to go
stargazing. Words cannot express the beauty of the sky. I have never
seen so many stars and with such great clarity. This area is so pure
and clean we must have been able to see a million stars.

This morning breakfast was as tasty as dinner. We started off with
watermelon and bananas... followed by eggs, potatoes, black beans, and
tomatoes. To drink we had a freshly squeezed pineapple juice.

Now we are caught up... Anne took us to Project Ix-Canaan where she
works with local villagers from everything from education to medicine.
I am looking forward to working here with the locals. This is truly
going to be an amazing trip. Until next time...

Hello From Guatemala!

Hello all! We arrived at Hotel Gringo Perdido yesterday evening after a full day of travel. It was a very interesting trip, especially customs at the Flores, Guatemala entry. More about that later. Our flight from Cancun was in a small turboprop airplane. The cabin was unpressurized which meant we flew so that the ground was very visible the entire trip.
We toured the grounds of the hotel and it is very expansive and colorful. After a great meal, were treated to a view of the stars that I have never experienced. It was FANTASTIC! Then to bed.
This morning we had a great breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, black beans, whole wheat bread and a blended fresco of pineapple juice. We are going to tour Ix Canaan now. Cheers!

We have arrived!!!

Our team has arrived in Guatemala...we got to Hotel Gringo Perdido last night around 4:45 PM local time. We enjoyed a tour of the hotel and land which was beautiful. We then enjoyed a great dinner, prepared hand made from the staff. It was great to view the water as we ate dinner and after we took a step out onto the deck to see all the beautiful stars. It is amazing!! You do not see the stars in Valdosta like you do in El Remate!! After a restful night for most we are currently at Project Ix-Canaan contacting our loved ones and preparing to tour Ix-Canaan and the amazing city!! We will keep you all informed as soon as possible!

The picture is one taken by Jeff as we toured the hotel land last night...BEAUTIFUL!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two legs more to go!!!

This has been a long day and its not finished yet! We departed Valdosta this morning at 5:45AM headed to Atlanta and we are currently in Cancun. It was pretty interesting once we arrived in Cancun. We had to go to baggage claim, get through customs, find the shuttle to Terminal 2 and then check in AGAIN. Now after security checks and some food we are relaxing and waiting for our flight to Flores. After that we will have a drive of about 30 minutes. I think we are all very ready to get there and see everything. A little rest will do us some good tonight and then we will get started working first thing in the morning. I am super excited, but having an interesting time dealing with 3 guys!!! Be back later with more info..

Ready for takeoff!

We have boarded in Valdosta, thankfully we all made it thru security. Cameras, laptops, it was a slow process (smiles). More when we get to Atlanta.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All Packed... And Ready to Go...

After studying all day for my final International Marketing Test and packing my stuff I am ready to go. It has kind of been stressful with trying to get assignments done in my other classes and doing research for our Guatemala trip, but now everything is done and I am ready for the fun part. The butterflies are here and I am very nervous about our trip right now. I want everything to be perfect and be a success. It will definitely be hard to sleep tonight with the anxiety and adrenaline going, but hopefully I will be able to get a couple of hours of shut-eye.
I think what I am dreading the most is the thirteen hours of travel time there and back. Being a big guy it is not easy to get comfortable on an airplane. It is not easy to sleep for me and my back tends tighten up. Nevertheless, I am a tough kid and will be able to make it through. The heat and mosquitoes are not going to be fun either, but this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I am not going to let three airplane rides and little insects ruin it for me. We are going to have an amazing time and I can't wait to get down there and explore as well as get my hands dirty doing real life work and apply what I have learned here at Valdosta State.


Wow...too much left to do and not enough time. However, I guess I will make time. The malaria drug is taking a toll on me in the mornings...I feel really bad.
I have loose ends to tie up at work; my students have been so nice wishing me safe travels and such. They are a good group. My staff has been great putting up with my craziness as I get ready to depart.
I guess I will be up packing tonight, going over my checklist(s) (yes I have several!). I have no film for the video camera so I better get to Sam's Club soonest or I will be in BIG trouble!

Above is a photo of sunrise at Lake Peten Itza taken from the web. I will be posting my photos soon but I wanted everyone to have a look. I'll post again soon, probably in the morning.

Less than 24 hours...

Link to Hotel Gringo Perdido

In less than 24 hours, we'll be winging our way to El Gringo Perdido Ecological Inn, located in El Remate. Tomorrow will be an early day, with lots of waiting... and flying... and waiting some more. We'll try to update the blog as we travel, but please be patient.

Monday, November 16, 2009

2 Days

Hello all,
Well, only 2 days left to clear up projects and finish packing for this trip. I am excited, a bit anxious and very ready to go. My teammates were fortunate in that they have been taking their malaria meds for the past several weeks. I started mine today...with predictable results. Now I know what they have been suffering thru.
Other than that, I believe things are going well. I believe we can accomplish much while we are in El Remate and build an ongoing relationship with everyone.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The team: Scott Manley, Nikki Mitchell, Jeff Shipley, and Cameron Hoopes

The Agenda

Wednesday, November 18th - Depart Valdosta at 5:45 AM local time, fly to Atlanta (ASA), to Cancun (Delta), then finally to Flores, Guatemala (Taca) , arrive at 3:45 PM local time, travelling by ground to Gringo Perdido

Thursday, November 19th - Morning: Tour Gringo Perdido, village of El Remate, Project Ix-Canaan. Afternoon: Facilitate a strategive planning session with Anne Lossing (manager) and Eduardo Cofino (owner) of Gringo Perdido.

Friday, November 20th - Work on projects for Gringo Perdido as identified in strategic planning session.

Saturday, November 21st - Work on projects for Gringo Perdido and Project Ix-Canaan as time allows.

Sunday, November 22nd - Training programs: Using Microsoft Office Live to create a web page for your business (Nikki Mitchell) & Implementing a social media campaign to build your business (Scott Manley)

Monday, November 23rd - Tour Tikal National Park

Tuesday, November 24th - Depart Flores, Guatemala at 8:25 AM local time, fly to Cancun, Atlanta, and Valdosta at 9:43 PM local time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Five Days

Time has flown by! We have 5 days left to make sure we have everything we need for our trip to Guatemala. My mind is full of lists and check sheets. Since I will be responsible for the photography and video, I keep thinking about the equipment I need to take such as batteries, SD cards, card readers, and battery chargers for the cameras.
There is much left to do. The team met Wednesday to review our progress on our individual assignments and to make a list of new questions. I think we are making progress.
I am looking forward to putting a lens on Lake Peten Itza and the opportunity to photograph El Remate, Hotel Gringo Perdido, the Biotopo Cerro Cahui Natural Reserve and of course Tikal, home of the ancient Mayan Civilization.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How in the world can you do it all?

We've got less than a week to go... time is flying by. We're almost done with the vaccinations, although as Nikki alluded to, it's not been an easy time. I think that most of us are getting tired of taking malaria and typhoid pills, not to mention getting flu shots, tetanus shots, and hep A/B injections.

Today, the team sat in on a strategic planning session with one of my small business clients where we spent 2.5 hours facilitating a discussion for the business owners to tell us what is important for them to be working on. The objective of these sessions is to elicit goals that the company would like to meet: for example, marketing, managerial, financial, or procedural goals. Once the goals have been sketched out, the next step is to begin formulating strategies to help in meeting the goals. Every strategy has a tactic and actions that must be developed, budgeted for, and assigned to a specific person or group of people. This is quite a tedious process, but is important to identify the most pressing needs of the company.

What is sometime most overwhelming for an entrepreneur is to realize they need to spend more time working ON their business than IN their business! For instance, an interior designer may really love to do design work, but hate paperwork and record-keeping. Unfortunately the necessary evils of being in business (record-keeping, customer relations, reporting and paying taxes, etc.) require that an entreprenuer either develop systems or hire someone to handle these tasks for them. It's not enough to be a great designer, you have to wear many hats... and to be successful, you have to wear them well!

Wow...this is going to be a journey!!

Well as the time is getting closer, I am starting to get a little anxious. The immunizations are really taking a toll on me be, but I guess in the end it will be worth it! This project brings alot of opportunities for our team and I know that it will be a great experience for everyone. We have all been doing our own research in different areas, as well as, working together to get everything together. We had another planning sessions yesterday and an interactive meeting this morning. Im excited because yesterday I found out that WE HAVE POWER...YAY!! I am the only girl going so probably the only one really worried about that but man is it going to be nice!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Team: Cameron Hoopes

Sorry.... I have been so busy with school and preparation for our expedition... I have not had time to post my biography yet. Nevertheless, I believe that our pre-departure preparation and hard work will lead to a successful trip as well as establish a sustainable program for VSU SIFE students for years to come.

A little info on me:

Currently, I am a senior Marketing and International Business major and I completed a minor in Spanish last year. I have been studying Spanish since I was a freshman in high school, and I am excited that I will be able to apply what I have learned to a real world application. This will be my second trip to a Spanish-speaking country. In the Summer of 2008, I did a five week study abroad program in Sevilla, Spain. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience about Spanish culture and the language. What I learned on the trip has given me confidence in my ability to converse in the language as well as critically think and accomplish any task or maneuver around any obstacle due to the language barrier and cultural differences. I am just a baby in SIFE compared to everyone else. This is my first semester involved in the program, and my only regrets is that I did not join sooner. I have met some amazing people that are in SIFE as well as the people who we taught and worked with. I am also involved in several honorary fraternities. My favorite one is Golden Key because we get to give tours of our beautiful campus to prospective freshman.

Like a majority of VSU students I am from the greater Atlanta area. I grew up and have lived in Snellville, Georgia all of my life. I grew up playing sports all of my life and played for my high school's basketball and football teams. During my senior year our football team was nationally ranked and set our school's record for the most wins in a season with 14 with our only loss coming in the state championship to Nikki's school Lowndes Co. High School. Somewhat ironic... Don't you think.... Every fall I get up to about 2 or 3 UGA football games with my family, but I still love and cheer for VSU's football and basketball teams. I chose Valdosta State because I wanted to live with my brother and play football. Unfortunately, injuries got in the way of playing football, but VSU became the perfect fit for me. I had original intentions of transferring to UGA, but I decided that graduating from VSU was the right call for me.

I don't have any prestigious accolades, however, I did win an eating challenge eating a five pound chimichanga at the "home of the original chimichanga," The El Charro Cafe in Tucson, Arizona.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Team Jeff Shipley

I'm excited about this project and foresee good things coming out of this collaboration between Hotel El Gringo Perdido, the Small Business Development Center and the VSU Students in Free Enterprise.
Just a little bit about me:

Jeff Shipley has over 25 years of management experience in various industries, such as manufacturing, food service and wholesale/retail sales. Jeff holds degrees in Finance and Accounting as well as a Master of Business Administration. At the Langdale College of Business, his responsibilities include the four computer labs, all faculty and staff computers as well as all printers and other peripheral equipment. In addition, he provides audio/visual support to functions and activities that are held on the North Campus of Valdosta State University. After serving several years as a technical advisor to Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), Jeff was named a Sam Walton Fellow and became one of the faculty advisors to the student organization. His areas of responsibility include advising the SIFE sponsored, student run business, Business Bites, event photography, video production and webpage maintenance. Jeff also serves as technical advisor to another student organization, Beta Alpha Psi, Mu Zeta Chapter. Jeff is a former volunteer with the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and served on the Board of Directors of the Valdosta/Lowndes County Humane Society as Treasurer.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Team: Nikki Mitchell

Hey guys! Im still learning how to do everything on here but i thought it would be a good idea to give you a little information about me...

I am a senior Accounting and Finance major at Valdosta State University. I am originally from Valdosta and love the area. I have been involved in SIFE for three years now. I started out as the secretary and as the years have progresses so have my positions. My second year in the organization I was Programs Director and this year I am the President. SIFE is a great organization the gives students opportunities to reach out and help others as well as helping yourself.

I am really looking forward to out trip to Guatemala. I think it will be a very beneficial experience for the people of El Remate, in addition, to VSU SIFE and the SBDC. I know that the process has been very busy lately because our team has faced many unexpected challenges, however, I think that we have an amazing group of individuals heading up this project!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The team: Scott Manley

It may be helpful for those reading the blog to know a little bit about us... here is my "formal" biography:

Before joining the Small Business Development Center, Scott Manley gained extensive experience in the private sector. A former small business owner, he has experience in the fields of retail management, manufacturing, logistics, financial management, and sales management. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with emphasis in Management, as well as a Master of Business Administration, both from Valdosta State University. Mr. Manley serves on the Business Advisory Board of Valdosta State University’s Chapter of Students in Free Enterprise, and on the Economic Restructuring Committee for Valdosta’s Main Street program. He has also served as Chair of Section 1533 of the American Society for Quality, on the Board of Directors of the Quitman/Brooks County Chamber of Commerce, and as a founding member of the Small Business Committee of the Thomasville/Thomas County Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Manley is regionally and nationally recognized for his expertise in QuickBooks®, search marketing and optimization, and new product development. In 2006, Mr. Manley was awarded the ASBDC Distinguished Service Award by the Association of Small Business Development Centers, and in 2008, he was recognized as the Georgia SBDC Network's Consultant of the Year. In 2009, he was recognized as the Association of Small Business Development Center's "State Star."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No H1N1 vaccinations for us old folks!

So, everything was going good until I called the Lowndes County Health Department about the H1N1 vaccine. It seems that neither Jeff nor I qualify for the vaccination because we are not part of the appropriate age group or at risk because of a chronic health condition. It's good to know that I am not "at risk," but I would sure feel better if I could mitigate that risk somewhat!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

T minus 2 weeks, and counting

This project is led by Scott Manley, Assistant Director of the VSU SBDC and SIFE Business Advisory Board Member, along with Jeff Shipley, SIFE Faculty Advisor. Students participating include Cameron Hoopes, a junior marketing major, and Nikki Mitchell, a senior finance and accounting major and current VSU SIFE president.

Today, Wednesday 11/4, starts the last round of vaccinations. We've already been poked and prodded (several times!), but now must start our oral malaria and typhoid vaccinations. Our little group will depart Valdosta at 5:45 on Wednesday, November 18th. We'll fly to Atlanta, then to Cancun, and finally to Flores, Guatemala, where we will be escorted to Hotel Gringo Perdido outside the village of El Remate. We'll spend the next five days working with the Hotel Gringo Perdido and project Ix-Canaan before returning home on Tuesday, November 24th.